General Question

DoNot's avatar

Can you remain friends with someone whose behavior you find unethical or immoral?

Asked by DoNot (4points) August 24th, 2008

If a friend is having an extramarital affair, and is actually breaking his family (wife and four small children) up because of it, would you be able to remain friends with the guy?

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25 Answers

ninjaxmarc's avatar

hell no what a low life.

I feel sorry for his wife and kids.

Lost_World's avatar

I would say not, I would not what to be friends with someone i don’t respect.

crunchaweezy's avatar

I can tell you one thing,

it’s not going to end well.

SuperMouse's avatar

You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. To you the relationship may appear to be perfect and he is just being a jerk and breaking his wife’s heart. Maybe there is more here than meets the eye. You need to be careful before you start judging someone without all the facts. Listen to him before you judge and disown him.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad that the wife has to deal with this, but which is better, staying in a marriage that is clearly not making him happy and having affair after affair or letting her go to find someone who will love her? If there is one thing I have learned, it is that not much good comes out of judging people.

crunchaweezy's avatar

If you have a family, I don’t see how that’s okay.

How do you know he hasn’t listened to him?

DoNot's avatar

Judging people = surrounding yourself with the quality of person you would like to become, or which you admire.

Poser's avatar

I have several friends whose ethics, or sense of morality are quite different than my own. They’ve told me about (and I’ve seen some) things they’ve done that I object to vehemently. But I can remain friends with them because they understand that my friendship is in no way an approval of their behavior.

DoNot's avatar

Poser, how do you make it OK when you watch one of those friends do something that hurts others?

Poser's avatar

@DoNot—What do you mean how do I “make it OK”? I never said their behavior is okay or acceptable to me.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Crunch, maybe he has listened to his friend and knows all the details, maybe he hasn’t. All I am saying is that no one can really know what is happening in a relationship.

@DoNot, great point, drop the guy as a friend, but know you might not have all the facts. When he confided in you were you willing to listen to him or did you convict him right there on the spot and refuse to hear anything else he said?

When a moral issue such as this arises, people want to jump right on their high horse make their judgment and be done with it. This guy may be a complete jerk who wanted nothing more than a piece of tail – in that case you are right to think he is an a$$hole not deserving of your friendship. But maybe there is more here that meets the eye. If the guy is truly a friend, you owe it to him and your friendship to listen to what he has to say. Who knows, maybe he has spent 21 years in a loveless marriage and endured countless – fruitless trips to the marriage counselor. Maybe he feels as though he has been married to his sister and she is not hearing when he begs her to give him (and their children) more. My point is, although you think you do, you might not know all the facts, and until you do it is not ok to judge him.

DoNot's avatar

Poser, I mean how do you make it OK within your frame of reference. I can’t separate the actions from the doer.

SuperMouse, you are saying that judging people is bad????? So could you justify being friends with a child molester or a killer because you don’t know his or her background and since this person’s actions haven’t affected you or because you don’t know or understand his/her motivations, you need to give him/her the benefit of the doubt? It’s an extreme comparison, but the whole judging thing is weird to me. I don’t have to have all the facts to hold the belief that breaking apart a family is wrong and that I don’t want to have anything to do with that. I cannot imagine living my life with such selfish motivations or with the lack of strength to honor commitments. Perhaps you don’t have children, I don’t know, but I do and I can’t imagine purposely taking one of their parents from them. Loveless marriage or not, a commitment to one’s children is more important than fleeting feelings of “happiness.” Just my take.

wildflower's avatar

Is your friendship centered or based on his family life? If so, I can see why you’d want to back out of it. If not, if he’s a good friend, I don’t see how this could end that.
I have a number if friends that I’ve had for years – even decades – and I haven’t always approved, condoned or agreed with their decisions, but I’ve supported them as best I can by listening and giving them my opinion. I’ve seen friends cheat, stay with abusive partners, make bad choices in all sorts of areas, but real friendship is the connection you have with them, not your agreement on their choices.

SuperMouse's avatar

@DoNot you are absolutely right, if you are his friend it is as good as being friends with a child molester or a serial killer. Dump him, don’t be his friend.

But honestly, why even ask this question here? It sounds as though you knew your answer before you even began this dialog.

loser's avatar

Hmm. I guess there’s nothing to add here.

augustlan's avatar

I know where you’re coming from DoNot, but don’t make a hasty decision. I have been in your position. I once discovered a friend was being unfaithul, and found it very difficult to deal with that information. I ended up asking my friend to tell me no more about it, because I couldn’t handle the knowledge. We remained friends, but there was a wall between us. After some time had passed, I relented and listened to it all. In every conversation, I urged my friend to make better choices, but was never successful. I made my disapproval known, but never revoked my friendship. What I gain from our friendship outweighs my opinion of my friend as a spouse. Regarding your child molester/murderer comparison, all “immoral” actions are not equal.

gailcalled's avatar

For me personally, I could not. Once I discovered a good friend had changed his name so as not to be thought Jewish, I could not maintain the friendship. I am Jewish, as it happened. And his reason was wanting to be elected president of a Waspy fraternity. The frat brothers asked him to change his last name. You can see the white-out and rewrite on his Ivy League diploma. (He did get the presidency. I hope it made him happy.)

tinyfaery's avatar

It would depend of the strength and intimacy of the friendship, and the act itself. As far as the case in point is concerned, I’d listen to what he/she had to say, be a supportive as I could be, but still let my opinion be know. I only have a few close friends, and it is due to the fact that I’m very wary of the type of people I let into my life. If it was one of these friends, I don’t think there is much I couldn’t forgive.

@gail I see how that could be a deal breaker.

augustlan's avatar

@tiny: I’m in complete agreement with you.

@gail: I’d have ended that one, too.

Poser's avatar

@DoNot—I don’t necessarily separate the person from the action. I don’t feel the need to. I don’t become friends with someone with the hope or expectation that I’ll always agree with their decisions. I become friends with people with the expectation that they’ll overlook my faults (which are abundant) and stupid decisions (which are also abundant, though less so than when I was younger) even if they don’t approve of them. I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I couldn’t do the same.

SeekerSeekiing's avatar

Yes, it depends upon how close you are with this friend. Most friends at some point will do something we do not condone or like or find ethically wrong.

I would tell this friend how I feel about the affair. If it bothered me to hear more of it, I’d tell her I needed a vacation from the details.

I am not perfect and have and will continue to make mistakes. In situations like this I do not live in both the families worlds and do not know completely what is going on. I. personally, would tell them I think they are cruising for a bruising….but I wouldn’t drop them as a friend.

lgndslayer's avatar

I’ve been faced with this situation and I choose to distant myself from him. I didn’t actually say anything to him. I just slowly, but surely stopped hanging out with him. I might should have said something, I don’t know, but I choose to just avoid him.

Poser's avatar

Also, it’s a matter of degree. I can’t say I would remain friends in the situation you describe, but I don’t know if I’d automatically drop them. It depends on the friend and the situation. If I found out they were murdering people in their spare time, however, that’s a deal breaker.

marinelife's avatar

If I had just read your question, I would have answered, “I cannot.”

Having read the details, though, my answer is different. You are not describing an unethical, immoral person. You are describing someone who is making a mistake. Everyone does that. Is it a bad mistake that will have long-term consequences for everyone involved? Yes.

Unless my friend had a pattern and history of treating other people thoughtlessly or acting totally selfishly, I might deplore their actions, but I would not end the friendship.

I would tell my friend honestly how I felt, which would be that while marriages can go wrong, seeking solace outside the marriage is not the answer. My best advice would be to break off the affair and work on the marriage. If the marriage ends, then to seek other companionship, but only after a suitable time.

If my friend chose not to take my advice, that would be their choice, but there would be nothing unspoken between us.

cyndyh's avatar

I think we all have different deal breakers. (I was glad when reading this to finally see tinyfaery use those words.) I think it’d be easier for me to be friends with someone who broke up his/her marriage because of someone else than to be friends with someone who continues to lie to their spouse and has a long-term affair. I mean, resolve things already.

I don’t believe all flaws are equal, either.

mee_ouch's avatar

When you’ve only been privy to one side of a story, you can’t possibly dissolve a friendship. Yet, neither can you be biased. Friendships are as important as any other union between two people. When your heart tells you there is cause for concern….it’s time to seek out answers elsewhere. That includes investigating the cause of a friend’s so-called indiscretions. Only then can you come to any conclusions with regards to continuing the friendship.

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